Review by C.J. Bunce
Some call them guilty pleasures–those films that are more bad than good, but have some quality you can’t quite identify that cements them in your own memory. You might not admit how much you like those films, but you do, and you’d also willingly admit the quality of the film is still bad, bad, bad. As you watch writer/director Mark Hartley’s new film about two cousins that created one of the most well-known independent B-movie film studios, I will wager you will see at least four movies from the 1980s that you’ll admit only to yourself “hey, I loved that movie.”
Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films chronicles two Israeli cousins, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, successful filmmakers in their home country who took America by storm, taking over Cannon Group in 1980 and churning out more movies than any other studio, eventually releasing about a movie a week before it ran out of money. The documentary highlights one of the studio’s defining, over-the-top and embarrassingly bad movies: Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. Cannon helped the careers of names like Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren and helped propel the second phase of the careers of actors like Chuck Norris, Charles Bronson, and Sylvester Stallone. The list of surprising names showing up in their films included Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Marina Sirtis and Patrick Stewart, and Sharon Stone, but even once big names like Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing could be found in a Cannon movie.
Delta Force, Missing in Action and Missing in Action 2, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Lifeforce, Hercules (with Lou Ferrigno), King Solomon’s Mines, Runaway Train, Invaders from Mars, American Ninja, Bloodsport, Cyborg, Death Warrant, Masters of the Universe, Powaqqatsi, and Superman IV, for good or bad, emerged from Golan and Globus’s years at Cannon.
Pop culture aficionados will be surprised by the obscure films and has-been A-list actors and actresses that popped up in Cannon films over the years, like Molly Ringwald, Robert Forster, and Lee Marvin. More often, the documentary suggests careers that were brought to a standstill by appearing in a Cannon film, like Brooke Shields. Missing are interviews with the big name stars from Cannon’s catalog, like Van Damme, who Cannon discovered.
Mark Hartley intersperses an exhaustive interview group that impressively tells one story of the two filmmakers–guys who loved movies but had no care for quality, known for saying repeatedly that what they lacked in quality they could make up in volume. It’s silly, but it worked for them, and only when they broke their own business model and tried to make big Hollywood pictures like Superman IV did they get over-extended on loans and fizzle out. The resulting account is a snapshot of an area of cinema that gets little attention, yet it is an intriguing behind the scenes look at films many of us have seen more times than we’d care to admit.
Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films begins its U.S. theatrical release September 23, 2015, and is available for pre-order on DVD from Amazon.com here, available September 29. 2015.